We are pleased to share with you the story of IVN’s Social Entrepreneur Fellows Irit Solzi and Dror Gershon, who recently graduated the program. Their 2-year fellowship – one of 2 SE Fellowships sponsored by one of our strategic partners, the Rashi Foundation - focused on sustainable urban planning.
"Merchav – The Movement for Israeli Urbanism (MIU)" that Irit and Dror founded is introducing modern urbanism and city planning in Israel and takes its inspiration from the Movement for New Urbanism in the United States. MIU strives to improve the quality of life for current and future generations via sustainable development of urban Israel; and by advancing democratic values in the Israeli urban planning processes.
SE Fellow Irit Solzi, “The IVN Fellowship enabled us to achieve a number of goals and gave us the financial independence to focus on MIU. The mentoring by Avner Shelem, was invaluable. He helped us focus on what was important, particularly with the work of the Steering Committee. Furthermore, the help and cooperation with the Rashi Foundation over other projects they brought us into such as Om Galil and Shlomi, was and is, invaluable.”
IVN Mentor Avner Shalem, “I try to dedicate at least one day a week to giving back to the community – working with Irit and Dror was an excellent way for me to do so – and for me to become more involved in environmental issues that are close to my heart. I saw my role as enabling them to become independent by the end of the two year fellowship and am pleased they have succeeded. I want to thank Irit and Dror, who are excellent examples of social leaders. I enjoyed every minute of my work with them and will continue to be involved in their initiative.”
Irit emphasized that, “The SE Fellowship also enabled us to participate in a charrette course at the University of Miami – Dror & I are the only Israelis trained in this process.”
The charrette process engages in listening to the public, then utilizing the skills of a wide range of experts to generate alternative urban planning proposals in a very short, but intensive period of time. Then, through public interaction, proposals are narrowed down, and finally through more public input a consensus is reached on how to proceed.
The scope of the completed work of the charrette was impressive. The response of the residents, shop owners, public officials and all stakeholders was very warm. The people thanked MIU for giving them an opportunity to speak up and for listening to them, giving them hope for a better future. The residents had changed within a week from cynics to believers. The shop owners were already making plans to get together and move forward in a common urban purpose that would make staying in Kiryat Shmona worth while.
In response to the damage caused during Second Lebanon War, MIU recently organized a 5-day charrette in Kiryat Shmona, with Rashi’s help. This was the first charrette of its kind in Israel. There have been many failed attempts at revitalizing Kiryat Shmona's downtown. This attempt initiated by MIU was different in that the professionals made an effort to learn from the people who live there in an attempt to create a stable sustainable center for Kiryat Shmona.
Congratulations to MIU for initiating this successful process and good luck to Irit and Dror in their important future endeavors!